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A lot on the line for these USMNT players at the Gold Cup

United States midfielder Jermaine Jones, left, and Canada

United States midfielder Jermaine Jones, left, and Canada forward Simeon Jackson battle for the ball in the second half of a CONCACAF Gold Cup match at Ford Field in Detroit, Mich. (June 7, 2011) Photo Credit: AP

The United States opened the Gold Cup strong, convincingly defeating their border rivals to the north, 2-0, to prove that its ugly game against Spain was, indeed, just a meaningless friendly.

Several players rose to the challenge against Canada, proving they belong in what is now the start of the next World Cup cycle. Youngsters with just a handful of caps are starting to become vital players for the USMNT moving forward. There are plenty more minutes and touches for each player left in this tournament. Let's take a look at who has the most to gain ... and the most to lose:


Tim Ream

If Ream and his center back partner Clarence Goodson can get through this group stage unscathed, they'll likely be the USMNT's defensive core of the future. After the Canada game, Bradley said: "For us, that was one of the highlights of the night, because I think it was good game for both of them." Both are tall, imposing figures that have the speed to recover and the length to disrupt play. Ream's ability to pass out of the back and out to the wings, where the U.S. is most dangerous, will be something to watch moving forward.

Clarence Goodson

See: Tim Ream. Goodson was privileged to be a part of the 2010 World Cup team, but he was one of two field players that did not see any minutes. Despite that, he's gaining valuable experience with the team and is a key player on set pieces in the attacking third. Don't be shocked if Goodson ends up with a goal or two by the end of this tournament.

Jermaine Jones

Central midfielder Michael Bradley shook off whatever rust he collected at Aston Villa and showed why he's so important to the USMNT. He tracked back beneath the defensive line to make stops and he pushed the ball forwarded when necessary. His father has been looking for his running mate for some time, and Jones could be the answer. Though Bradley is a composed player, he's still only 23, so it's not a bad idea to have the 29-year-old Jones paired with him in the middle. It's going to be very interesting to see what kind of relationship the two ex-Bundesliga players build in this tournament.


Maurice Edu

Speaking of central midfield, where does Jones' above-average play in the Gold Cup opener leave Edu? He's no doubt a key player moving forward for the U.S., but if Jones eats up all his Gold Cup minutes, Edu could get frustrated. Compounding his problems, Stuart Holden, perhaps one of the top five players in the entire U.S. player pool, will return from injury in the next few months and could shove Edu down the depth chart even further. Edu has to hope Jones slips up, or Bradley tinkers with a 5-man midfield real soon.

Oguchi Onyewu

Similar to last summer, Bradley had to make a decision whether Onyewu could shake off an injury and bounce back for the rigors of tournament play. Last year at the World Cup, he gave Onyewu a chance to prove himself right away by starting him against England. At this year's Gold Cup, the big man never got that shot. If Ream and Goodson continue their fine form, Onyewu may be demoted to backup for the foreseeable future.

Jonathan Spector

Is he a defender or a midfielder? We saw Spector play both positions against Spain. The problem is, however, he's not excelling at either of them. Steve Cherundolo will always be in front on him on the depth chart on defense, and it seems Timmy Chandler -- whenever he dons the red, white and blue -- is his successor. In midfield, the U.S. simply has too much talent to give Spector the time of day in key games. We may only see him play in a meangingless game against Guadeloupe or some mop-up time in the middle rounds.


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